Mr. McMillian, who is black, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a young white woman who worked as a clerk in a dry clearing store in Monroeville, Alabama. Mr. McMillian was held on Death Row prior to being convicted and sentenced to death. His trial lasted only a day and a half. Three witnesses testified against Mr. McMillian and the jury ignored multiple alibi witnesses, who were black, who testified that he was at a church fish fry at the time of the crime. The trial judge overrode the jury’s sentencing verdict for life and sentenced Mr. McMillian to death.
EJI's Bryan Stevenson took on the case in postconviction, where he showed that the State’s witnesses had lied on the stand and the prosecution had illegally suppressed exculpatory evidence. Mr. McMillian's conviction was overturned by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 1993 and prosecutors agreed the case had been mishandled. Mr. McMillian was released in 1993 after spending six years on death row for a crime he did not commit.
The case was profiled on "60 Minutes" and is the subject of a 1996 Edgar Award-winning book by Pete Earley entitled "Circumstantial Evidence."